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Feds Target Instructors of Polygraph-Beating Methods 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-seen-confiscating-crystal-balls-and-dowsing-rods dept.
schwit1 writes "Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers. The criminal inquiry, which hasn't been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic. So far, authorities have targeted at least two instructors, one of whom has pleaded guilty to federal charges, several people familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who'd sought polygraph-beating advice. U.S. agencies have determined that at least 20 of them applied for government and federal contracting jobs, and at least half of that group was hired, including by the National Security Agency. By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn't protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances."
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Feds Target Instructors of Polygraph-Beating Methods

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:35AM (#44593227)

    I mean if we are going to go with the crackpot solutions we wouldnt want phrenology to feel left out, i believe it has some valuable insight and wait till i tell you about alchemy and auras.

    • What, no jobs for ESPers? What kinda prejudiced quackery is that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Phrenology is a bad example for crackpot science: in a time when all psychology was still stated in religious terms such as "soul" it was one of the first attempts to come up with something rational & measurable.

      Phrenology turned out to be wrong, because it was falsifiable. Mainstream psychology at that time wasn't even wrong.

  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:37AM (#44593243) Homepage Journal
    But I was not a poly dude [wikipedia.org], so I was all: 'Meh'.
    Then they came for the yoga instructors, since relaxation is where it's at, and I was kinda: 'Urf?'
    Then they came for my surf board.
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:39AM (#44593259) Homepage

    Be interesting if the course were a book and they sold it on Amazon instead of teaching a class. Make the 1st Amendment kick in a little harder.

  • How about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:39AM (#44593261)

    Just admitting that Polygraphs are not reliable indicators of truthfulness?

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      According to an NAS study, they're something like 85% reliable. The problem with an 85% reliable test is that it will produce a lot of false positives and false negatives. People you should have hired will be screened out and people you shouldn't have hired will be accepted. Older-fashioned methods work better. Interview the person, the family members, long time acquaintences and co-workers. Ask open-ended questions about the person's relationships, how they work with others, how they view authority, w

      • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

        by camperdave (969942) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:22AM (#44593531) Journal
        Lie detectors are 100% reliable. If I see one at a job interview, it is a sure sign that I don't want to work there.
      • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jonbryce (703250) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:32AM (#44593577) Homepage

        And lets look at this 85% reliability more carefully.

        Supposing you have 1,000,000 non-terrorists and 100 terrorists. You ask them if the are a terrorist, and use the lie detector to determine whether or not they are telling the truth. Everyone says they are not a terrorist. The lie detector will identify 150,085 people as terrorists, of which only 85 are actually terrorists. In otherwords, if the lie detector says you are a terrorist, there is a 0.057% probability that you are actually a terrorist.

        How do these figures work?

        Of the 1,000,000 non-terrorists, it will correctly identify 850,000 of them as being non-terrorists, and incorrectly identify 150,000 as being terrorists. Of the 100 terrorists, it will correctly identify 85 of them as being terrorists, and incorrectly identify 15 of them as not being terrorists. A total of 150,085 people identified as terrorists, only 85 actually are.

    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:16AM (#44593495)

      "Just admitting that Polygraphs are not reliable indicators of truthfulness?"

      If they do that, they have to stop using the non-functioning bomb- detectors as well, we can't have that!

  • Protecting a lie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:40AM (#44593265)

    IALA

    The real crime here is that law enforcement agencies are using such a notoriously unreliable [apa.org]technology for investigatory and evidentiary purposes. Polygraphs have absolutely no place in the modern justice system.

    • by interval1066 (668936) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @11:05AM (#44594177) Homepage Journal

      The real crime here is that law enforcement agencies are...

      THE REAL crime here is that there is NO WAY this Fed action passes the first amendment smell test. ANYONE has an ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to say whatever they want about lie detectors, yet no one seems to give a wiff.

      • Re:Protecting a lie (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nbauman (624611) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @02:48PM (#44595659) Homepage Journal

        The issue isn't any of the First Amendment rights. The issue is that the undercover agents tricked the instructors into believing that they were helping people commit a crime.

        Several people familiar with the investigation said Dixon and Williams had agreed to meet with undercover agents and teach them how to pass polygraph tests for a fee. The agents then posed as people connected to a drug trafficker and as a correctional officer who’d smuggled drugs into a jail and had received a sexual favor from an underage girl.

        I think it's entrapment, but the Supreme Court doesn't agree.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:42AM (#44593285)

    Finally, we have a case for information being outlawed.

    • I've had a website devoted to alternative cancer treatments almost since the start of the Internet. I wonder if they will knock, or just kick the door in?

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        I've had a website devoted to alternative cancer treatments almost since the start of the Internet. I wonder if they will knock, or just kick the door in?

        You have it exactly backwards. Polygraphs *and* "alternative [anything]" are the fakes. It's more like, if I published a book on why so-called alternative treatments were complete bunkum (which they are) and the Feds wanted to shut me down.
        As Iain whatsisname said, "If it worked, we'd call it a treatment. It's called 'alternative treatment' because it DOESN'T."

      • by mspohr (589790)

        They will most likely send a SWAT team (without a search warrant):
        Texas SWAT raid destroys organic farm:
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/texas-swat-team-conducts-_n_3764951.html [huffingtonpost.com]

  • QL'EB? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:43AM (#44593295) Homepage Journal

    It's like attacking tarot readers for claiming they can work out when palmists are making shit up.

  • Polygraphs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:47AM (#44593319)

    Why the hell are polygraphs still being used in the 21st century? They aren't admissible in a court of law for a damned good reason. They are junk science and no better than a voodoo board. The only thing they do is tell whether or not your nervous. They are a perfect example of something that provides a false sense of security as Ames and your other famous spies all /passed/ their lie detector tests. These things need placed in the museum of junk science post haste.

    • by LetterRip (30937)

      Why the hell are polygraphs still being used in the 21st century? They aren't admissible in a court of law for a damned good reason. They are junk science and no better than a voodoo board.

      Voodoo is a rather apt analogy. The reason they are used is that they help amplify the belief of the individual that they will get caught in a lie. Thus the reason the FBI are angry is that this teaching will negate the belief that you'll get caught and defeats the psychological manipulation.

      Ie if the vooodoo man casts a hex on you, and you believe in voodoo - then you might engage in behavior that makes the hex self fulfilling; but if another voodoo man sells you a talisman to ward off the hex - your bel

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nidi62 (1525137)

      The only thing they do is tell whether or not your nervous.

      Not even nervous. I took a polygraph (well, voice stress analysis) as part of the hiring process for a fairly large metropolitan police force (with a Masters degree I would have started out at roughly $45k per year base, as opposed to the roughly 25k I am making at my current job. Yay shitty economy). One question was so absurd (have I ever hired a prostitute) that I laughed as I replied in the negative. Of course the readout then showed "stress" in my voice. However the baseline tests (which were the e

  • Our President (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:47AM (#44593321)

    Is now more immoral and corrupt than his predecessor. That is quite a feat for anyone.

  • Bad summary is bad. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:48AM (#44593325)

    They aren't arresting people for just teaching the methods. The instructor they arrested had trained two undercover agents posing as criminals that wanted to lie on the exam. One was a drug trafficker and the other a correctional officer that smuggled drugs into prison and received sexual favors from an underage girl. The instructor taught them how to cover up those crimes. Seems pretty simple to me. If you say you want to rob a bank, and I give you a gun to do it I'm criminally liable for it. Why isn't fraud the same? It would be one thing if the instructor didn't know they were criminals, but he did. The summary makes it sound as if they're wantonly arresting people.

    • by sqlrob (173498)

      Except they don't use polygraphs in criminal investigations, so what's the problem?

      • The problem is that you are confusing what happens in a criminal investigation with what is admissible in a court of law. Plenty of people have, no doubt, been convicted of crimes they didn't commit because they took a polygraph and threw a false positive, at which point the "investigators" stopped looking for the real criminal and started fabricating ... er ... gathering evidence that tends to convict the innocent party and ignoring evidence that might point toward exoneration.
    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:14AM (#44593485)

      Yes it sounds like they're going after them for conspiracy rather than simply teaching these techniques, which is the sort of legal technicality beloved of prosecutors, but you're missing the bigger point. This is not analogous to someone selling a gun to a person who says they want to rob a bank; it's analogous to letting someone take your chemistry class even though they say they want to make a bomb to blow open a bank safe. This is stopping the dissemination of information because it could be used for nefarious purposes.

      Additionally, the undercover agents said that they already did commit these crimes, not that they were planning on using these techniques to commit crimes in the future. If potentially helping somebody to beat the charges is a crime, then why are defense attorneys legal?

      • "; it's analogous to letting someone take your chemistry class even though they say they want to make a bomb to blow open a bank safe."

        In the US, this is known as a consiracy, so yes, you are correct. If a person makes clear that they are seeking information from you that will help them commit a crime, and you give them that information, then you are indeed complicit in that crime under US law. For example, if someone asks you where a person will be at a certain time and makes it clear that they want to k

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        Really? Because the right to counsel is specified in the 6th Amendment, and even that protection only applied in federal courts until Gideon v. Wainwright in the 60s. In other words, because people fought long and hard for the right, much like many of the other rights that we, quite literally, take for granted these days. That's why.

      • by tomhath (637240)
        The linked article is obviously very biased, as is the slashdot headline. Why this made the front page is a mystery. One quote form the article stands out:

        Dixon, 34, also declined to provide specifics on his guilty plea but he said he’d become an instructor because he couldn’t find work as an electrical contractor. During the investigation, his house went into foreclosure. “My wife and I are terrified,” he said. “I stumbled into this. I’m a Little League coach in Indiana. I don’t have any law enforcement background.”

        In other words, the guy was committing fraud by charging for this "instruction". He was convicted of fraud. The Big Brother angle is all hype and speculation.

    • They aren't arresting people for just teaching the methods. The instructor they arrested had trained two undercover agents posing as criminals that wanted to lie on the exam. One was a drug trafficker and the other a correctional officer that smuggled drugs into prison and received sexual favors from an underage girl. The instructor taught them how to cover up those crimes. Seems pretty simple to me. If you say you want to rob a bank, and I give you a gun to do it I'm criminally liable for it. Why isn't fraud the same? It would be one thing if the instructor didn't know they were criminals, but he did. The summary makes it sound as if they're wantonly arresting people.

      Thing is... robbing a bank is a crime. Lying on a job interview isn't.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:48AM (#44593329) Journal

    ...Polygraphs can be beaten and as such are not reliable!
    Deniability is man most powerful tool. So really its all about abstraction. What definition do you apply to the questions or do you simply deny the questioner over your own internal thoughts?

    The ability of beat a polygraph might actually be a quality the government is looking for....... considering all the lies they have told and certainly spying would find the ability to beat a polygraph an asset.

    So you see, its really all null and void this polygraph issue.

    Now what more does anyone need to consider in their mental state to beat a polygraph?

  • by rwyoder (759998) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:48AM (#44593333)

    Over the years I've seen 3 investigative reports on TV, and read many articles on the topic. It all comes down to the same thing: The polygraph is just a stage prop in an interrogation, for the purpose of scaring the ignorant into confessing. Here is Penn & Tellers report:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NLf7XwLpyQ [youtube.com]

  • I worked in electronics sales in the early 80s. In San Antonio, TX at the time you had to take a polygraph to work almost anywhere (for example, Radio Shack was one). As soon as I was hired in most places, my new co-workers started telling me how to beat the polygraph. (I had no reason to worry, but they told me anyway). In the end I found out that many of these folks were robbing the employer blind. And all had passed a polygraph.

    Of course, your ability to beat the polygraph probably has a lot to do

  • by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:57AM (#44593375)
    Let's spread the news of how to beat polygraphs as widely as possible. Now we have the government banning it, that makes it desirable knowledge, OK?

    From TFA: "Charles Honts, a psychology professor at Boise State University, said laboratory studies he’d conducted showed that countermeasures could be taught in one-on-one sessions to about 25 percent of the people who were tested. Polygraphers have no reliable way to detect someone who’s using the techniques, he said. In fact, he concluded that a significant number of people are wrongfully accused."
    Mirror these sites and anything else you feel relevant
    http://www.wikihow.com/Cheat-a-Polygraph-Test-(Lie-Detector) [wikihow.com]
    https://antipolygraph.org/articles/article-034.shtml [antipolygraph.org]
  • So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:06AM (#44593441) Journal

    > Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as
    > 5,000 people who'd sought polygraph-beating advice.

    Which was, of course, the real goal. Much like seizing the records of companies that sell hydroponics equipment.

    So what has this incident taught these instructors, whether they be good or evil?

    1. Cash-only and don't use records.
    2. If someone says they want to do evil, give them their money back and kick them from the class. Otherwise, don't ask, don't tell.

  • Is what I read. As in, teaching how to get the desired polygraph results from a suspect through beating

  • We can not have foreigners spying on our people. These jobs should not go to foreigners. They belong to Americans. They should spy on our people.

    (Uh wait!)

    USA! USA! USA!

    (Phew, that was close.)

  • The TFS gives away the "criminal" practices - "polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic. " - so now they will come after /. as well... :-)

    And maybe, commenters who quote TFS...

    Fortunately when the sit me down for interrogation, now I know all that is needed is byte the tongue for not giving away the ID numbers of my fellow /.ers; So, don't worry!

  • Step 1: claim to champion freedom of speech, but oppress it when is inconvenient for the establishment.

    Are they going to go after that episode of P&T's Bullshit where they say you can beat the box by clenching your ass?

  • It's quite clear it no longer applies here. Unless your speech is 'state approved', better watch your back.

  • Teaching someone how to beat a polygraph is not a crime.

  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @10:35AM (#44593971) Journal

    George Costanza: "It isn't a lie if you believe it"

  • I don't know what else you can call this. Note that (according to McClatchy) they are not charging that instructing people how to beat a polygraph is a crime (as far as I know it isn't), they are targeting people who instruct this with whatever random crime they can come up with, and probably using entrapment to do it :

    In the last year, authorities have launched stings targeting Doug Williams, a former Oklahoma City police polygrapher, and Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who’s said to have been inspired by

  • Cheating at a pretend test? Now THAT is low. Seriously, the only thing protecting us from terrorists and sociopaths in the FBI or whatever is a polygraph? We're fucked.
  • A president who stands for the rule of law and liberties: "Polygraph tests are unreliable and have little scientific data to back them up; I am immediately ending their use by government by executive order and working towards making them illegal as part of job applications."

    A totalitarian-leaning president with a disregard for the rule of law and the Constitution: "Let's prosecute people who teach others to get around our unreliable and unproven interrogation tactics."

    It's clear what kind of president we ha

  • That's how you beat the polygraph. Thank you and good night

  • There is no such thing as a "lie detector".

    -jcr

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